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Nashville's Madi Diaz has been preparing to be a musician her whole life. A Berklee College of Music grad who started playing piano at age five, Diaz is touring in support of her recent three-song EP, Far From the Things We Know, which previews tracks from her upcoming album. In advance of her first show in Denver this week, we spoke with Diaz about her background and being classically trained.
Westword: Tell me how and why you became a musician.
Madi Diaz: Both of my parents were super music lovers when I was growing up — they had a massive record and tape collection. I think my dad even had a couple of laser discs, but that was a short-lived thing. My dad was a musician who went to Berklee, and he made me learn piano when I was five. Later, I picked up guitar because, as any thirteen-year-old would, I thought it looked way cooler than playing piano [laughs]. My parents were super supportive of my big dreams; I was pretty lucky. I guess I became a musician because I didn't see myself doing or loving anything else as much.
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Like your dad, you attended Berklee. Do you feel that being a classically schooled musician has any limitations?
I never really touched in the area of being overly trained. I knew how much I wanted to put into it. I was pretty lucky to get into Berklee at all. I never really had any theory or music-reading capabilities; I was completely by ear. I think it's a silly thing to say you're limited by your skill and depth of knowledge; if anything, it helps you translate on all levels.
In Nashville, and generally in the music world, it can be looked down upon to be a trained musician because you're not as rugged or cool, but I think that's silly. There are so many different ways to communicate and, because of Berklee, I have a few more ways to communicate music to people — but I do understand the fear of learning too much that you'll lose the original depth you had.
Tell me about your EP and your forthcoming album.
The songs are kinda scattered throughout the last couple of years in Nashville. I do a good bit of writing with my friend Kyle Ryan; we moved to Nashville together. John Alagia [Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer] had gotten ahold of us through some mutual friends and asked us if we wanted to do a record. We went up to his studio — Compound Studio — in middle-of-nowhere, desolate, beautiful Virginia and spent about ten days up there tracking the foundation of the record.